[Originally published in DTM Magazine Issue #32; October 2006.
René Pérez Joglar (Resident) and Eduardo José Cabra Martínez (Visitor) make a tantalizing musical pair. Their sound is exploding like dynamite over radio stations in the U.S. and Latin America, since their first album hit the stands last year.
Calle 13, mixing strong lyrics with a blend of rap, reggaeton and Afro-Antillean rhythms, was born by chance. The two brothers have been involved in music in one way or another for years, which has earned them the title of “The Intellectuals of Reggaeton.”
Eduardo was only six when he started piano lessons. He went to the Conservatory of Music and to the School of Arts Manolo Acosta in his native Puerto Rico. He later graduated from the Puerto Rico University, Rio Piedras Campus. René (voice and lyrics) is a fanatic of visual arts and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts and a Masters in Cinematography. He studied at the School of Plastic Arts in Puerto Rico and later studied animation at Savannah University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Their lives changed dramatically when they recorded five songs in 2005 at René’s home studio. Both Eduardo and René are a lot of fun, and special. They give off such strong energy both on stage and in person. DTM witnessed this during the interview and photo shoot where we saw firsthand the humor and spontaneity from both the artists. They also told DTM how they began their musical adventure, their preferences, influences and they are even crowned “The Kings of Reggaeton.”
DTM: How have you handled the sudden rise of Calle 13?
Visitor: We noticed it went rather rapidly, but we have a very strong background. My family has been linked to the arts; my father is a musician and my mother, René, is an actress. I’ve been in the music world for 10 years already.
Resident: We always liked music. I knew this since I was a kid. I was in a band. In my family, we never saw art as a means to make money, but as a passion. Everything we did was on that wave and we wanted to do something, though not to commercialize it. Then we decided to look for friends that my brother knew from his previous jobs with other groups. Since we knew them, we immediately had good chemistry. We haven’t realized what we’ve done yet. I feel I’m the same guy prior to coming out with our album.
We start working, and we only think of our music. I enjoy everything that’s happening, and I think that what’s going on is beyond anything we’ve imagined. We would have done it for nothing, anyway! Our idea at the beginning was to have our own website with an art video and then, of course, the whole thing slipped out of our hands…
DTM: How are you doing with the work for the second Calle 13 album?
Visitor: I don’t think this will be a reggaeton album, per se. It is a musical blend of 14 songs. Nine of these have other rhythms. Reggaeton comes as a show tool. It is not singing with a recorded background. Its construction is more complex, but we try to stick to the urban essence. Our next album will be more experimental, more powerful, and more obscure. In fact, more powerful and more aggressive in every sense.
Resident: We have strong lyrics, but the themes are not sexually violent. We come with a sound that is more, shall we say, relativistic. In visual terms, it is like those films by Passolini and González Iñárritu. They have a very experimental aura, transforming all the material into something massive, simplifying everything, but at the same time, keeping that urban and pop thing there. We want to come up with social issues; we want everybody to understand it.
DTM: Will you continue to make the same type of music or are you getting into other fields?
Visitor: We would like to go further, but this does not mean that we would do ‘salsa’ or ‘merengue,’ but we would like to move on without leaving behind our urban thing. Maybe we’ll do as Rubén Blades did on his record “Mundo.” The drums and percussion are still there, but he took salsa to another place.
DTM: How difficult is it to work with your brother 24/7?
Visitor: It is super neat, we criticize and yet we respect each other a lot. We keep our family close because we also include our sister, who is PG-13.
Resident: We understand each other good, there is plenty of chemistry. I write, he works with the music and everyone respects what the other one is doing. It is very easy to work together.
DTM: Who are the artists you dig the most?
Visitor: I admire Gustavo Santaolalla very much. Gustavo Cerati is also one of my favorites.
Resident: I love Manu Chau’s music. I really follow a lot of people and have a lot of likes. I like the rock, Janis Joplin…
DTM: What is it you don’t like about the field you’re working in?
Visitor: That business wants to dominate everything and that music and art is starting to be seen as a business.
DTM: What is your relationship with your fans?
Visitor: I like to interact with them. I’m not that expressive though. I’m super calm. My brother is a lot more expressive.
Resident: I like audiences but as much as they give you energy, they also take a lot away from you. You’re sick, but you must go out and perform. The audience doesn’t understand you are human and get exhausted. I love to share time with people, to connect with our audience and go into the neighborhoods. A lot of people don’t even imagine it’s me though.
DTM: Do you still remember the energy that came from your performance at Premios Juventud (Youth Awards?)
Resident: It was so overwhelming to see all those happy and emotional people. It was very ‘chevere’ (great.) We were so happy to see people enjoying our project.
Visitor: I love to perform and therefore I get emotional at every show, but René looked so cool: To see my brother flying on a bike and to watch people reacting to it.
DTM: What do you feel when you think about the house and address that gave you the name for the group?
Resident: I feel nostalgic about the street and the phone that has been there for so long. Fito Paez’s song “Al Lado del Camino,” carries me also into that mood.
DTM: Many artists claim the crown as the “King of Reggaeton,” if you were asked to crown anybody, whom would you put that crown on?
Resident: Depends on what aspect you are considering. The person at the top now is Daddy Yankee and he is the one opening doors. He is up, but that doesn’t mean he is the best. To me, Tego Calderón is the one with the most solid sound in this genre.
Resident will be in attendance as the the ‘King’ of the 2014 Puerto Rican Day Parade Sunday, June 8th in NYC.